HELENA — This past fall, students at C.R. Anderson Middle School worked with the Forest Service and Wild Montana on an application to get the Mann Gulch Overlook Trail on the National Recreation Trail registry.
On Tuesday night, they presented their work at the Lewis and Clark Library.
Student and Mann Gulch Club member Melissa Klatt said, “I just think this is a really cool project, and I loved being a part of it.”
Since the beginning of the school year, 15 8th-grade students have been meeting twice a week during lunch.
They also met with the Forest Service and Wild Montana numerous times about the application.
The students are a part of the Mann Gulch Club at C. R. Anderson, working to get the trail on the national registry.
According to the National Park Service, the registry helps highlight and promote some of the country’s highest-caliber trails and recognizes the value of trails to communities.
There are almost 1,300 National Recreation Trails across the United States and Puerto Rico.
The last time Montana had a trail placed on the registry was the River’s Edge Trail in 2018.
The Mann Gulch project is something 8th-grade teacher Shannon Thomas has worked on for the past 30 years.
She said, “To be able to look back on a tragic event but also one that gave a legacy of safety behaviors for all the rest of the firefighters.”
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Mann Gulch fire, which burned 5,000 acres near the Gates of the Mountains and killed 13 firefighters.
The club was able to visit Mann Gulch thanks to a trip sponsored by the Gates of the Mountain Foundation.
At the end of their presentation at the library, the club learned the Mann Gulch Trail had been approved as a National Recreation Trail.
“I almost cried watching their reaction because it was so exciting because they’ve worked so hard on this,” Thomas said.
Klatt was also excited to hear the news.
“I was amazed. I didn’t think we were supposed to get the news until June. This is amazing; it’s so great. I helped to get this trail designated nationally, and it’s just a really cool feeling to know that you helped with that,” she said.
A spokesperson from the Forest Service said they are planning events across three days in August to remember those lost in the fire. The events will be announced in April.
The club hopes to get together on August 5th to honor the 75th anniversary of the Mann Gulch Fire.